Majestic: A wintery Beaver Creek Park
January 13, 2017
That's how Beaver Creek Park Superintendent Chad Edgar has described the 10,000-acre park during the winter.
"The park is just majestic in the winter. It is quiet and very peaceful out here," Edgar, who lives in the park, said. "We got a lot of people that just go for their drives in the winter. It's a great time to see wildlife, and see big whitetail bucks."
It's no secret the park has far more visitors during summer months than winter ones - "usage is very minimal right now" - but Edgar sees the silver lining in that.
"It's a wonderful time to be at the park," he said.
Whether it's ice fishing, the most popular of winter activities in the park, or snowshoeing, snowmobiling or cross-country skiing, Edgar said the park has something to do for anyone who wants to enjoy the wintry outdoors.
The ice is really sufficient right now - the lakes have good ice, he said Wednesday.
Tyler Hansen was visiting from Billings with his girlfriend, Megan Hannon, for the weekend to visit Megan's family, who lives in Havre. The family decided Saturday was a good day to get out and take advantage of a frozen First Lake, Beaver Creek Reservoir.
Megan and Tyler were inside an orange rectangular Eskimo tent, in which they had drilled four fishing holes through the 16-inch thick ice. The temperature had been fluctuating above and below the 0 mark all afternoon, but inside the tent the air was tamer.
"It's not too cold. You'd think it'd be cold in here, but it's not," Megan said.
A glowing space heater stood by one of the tent walls, blowing warmth and creating a watery surface.
Megan had caught her first fish of the season.
"Every winter I go out with my dad and try to fish. I got skunked last year, so I'm excited I caught at least one fish," she said.
For Tyler, the trip out to the lake was about the company.
"It's pretty cool. It just is," Tyler said of the afternoon. "You get to spend it with friends and family."
Tyler had yet to catch a fish.
Outside of the big orange tent, a few feet away, Ryan Hannon was helping drill through the ice, getting it ready for spear fishing. A five-pronged pitchfork-like spear was leaning against a small, white portable shack that was meant to provide some sort of relief from the frigid Montana air.
Ryan said he'd heard someone say they caught a 15-pound northern pike, and he wanted some of that action. This was his first time spear fishing, he said.
Ryan credited his "crazy family" for dragging him on the lake. In the summer, Ryan said he usually uses a boat to get on that same lake.
About 50 yards east, closer to Beaver Creek Road, another group of fishermen - and fisherwomen - had set up on First Lake.
Jamie Skillings, Brian Lockner and C.J. Johnsrud, all of Havre, had drilled six holes in the ice and dropped lines in the water. While waiting for fish to bite, they huddled near an ATV, talking and watching their dogs Zoe, a stout white and tan pit bull, and Chewy, a gray wirehaired pointing griffon, wrestle and playfully antagonize each other.
C.J., who was sipping an energy drink, said he tries to get out to the park once a weekend.
"When it's not windy," Jamie quickly added.
For Brian, from Mount Hood, Oregon, it was all about the wind factor.
"Tomorrow's supposed to be 15-mile-an-hour winds, which makes it a real bugger," he said, before adding the sun was the reason he was out.
Winter, fall, spring or summer - the trio agreed they always find something to do in the park.
On the way out - just as on the way in - Beaver Creek Road, Montana Secondary 234, was covered with packed snow, some spots more packed than others. The sun was setting to the west, creating a bluish hue over the park hills.
Atop one of those western hills, somewhere between Camp Kiwanis and First Lake, a few yards from the road, three deer huddled together, appearing to inspect the snow laden ground.
They scattered after being alarmed by an approaching human. When the three ran, a herd of at least 10, appeared from behind another of the hills, and joined them in the scramble.
Together, the herd sprinted up and over a hill and into the fading sunset.